As if the Mets hadn’t already worn enough egg on their face for having dealt Scott Kazmir to the Rays for Victor Zambrano at the July 2004 deadline, their former lefty took them behind the shed tonight as a member of the Indians. Kazmir struck out 12 Mets hitters over six shutout innings, allowing just four hits and walking none on 97 pitches.
Kazmir’s career barely had a pulse after the 2010 season. He had compiled a 5.94 ERA in 150 innings with the Angels. He fell so far off the map that he spent the 2012 season with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Independent League.
The Indians took a flier on Kazmir, still just 29 years old, signing him to a one-year, $1 million deal in December. With tonight’s effort, he lowered his ERA to 4.17 and he is averaging nearly a strikeout per inning pitched.
Mets starter Zack Wheeler struggled, walking five in five frames and allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits. Indians reliever Cody Allen surrendered a solo home run to shortstop Justin Turner in the seventh, but that was the extent of the Mets’ offense. After Joe Smith tossed a scoreless top of the eighth, the Indians tacked on some more offense in the bottom half as Nick Swisher hit a grand slam to left field off of Mets lefty reliever TIm Byrdak, putting his team up 8-1. Matt Albers sealed the deal with a clean ninth inning, recording two strikeouts.
The Tigers trounced James Shields and the Royals tonight, so the Indians remain 6.5 games out of first place in the AL Central. They temporarily improve to 2.5 games behind the Rays — in progress against the Mariners — for the second Wild Card.
Lost in the nifty base running by Dustin Pedroia that won Sunday’s game against the Rays, the Red Sox set a new major league record by striking out 11 batters in a row, per Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. Starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out the final six Rays he faced and reliever Heath Hembree struck out five Rays in a row after that. Tom Seaver had the previous consecutive strikeout streak of 10, set on April 22, 1970 against the Padres.
The Red Sox also set a team record with 23 strikeouts in total: 13 by Rodriguez, five by Hembree, one by Matt Barnes, and four by Joe Kelly. Per Abraham, that’s the most strikeouts in a 10-inning game since at least 1913 and the most in a game of any length since 2004.
For Rodriguez, Sunday marked the first double-digit strikeout game of his career. He has pitched quite well since returning to the rotation at the start of the second half. Over 13 starts, the lefty has a 3.10 ERA with a 70/23 K/BB ratio in 72 2/3 innings.
Dodgers second baseman Charlie Culberson delivered a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning, clinching the NL West for the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon. What a way to celebrate Vin Scully’s final home game behind the microphone.
The Dodgers were trailing 2-1 in the seventh inning, but shortstop Corey Seager tripled in a run to tie the game. Rockies outfielder David Dahl untied the game in the top of the ninth with a two-out solo home run off of Kenley Jansen. But Seager once again rose to the occasion, blasting a game-tying solo shot in the bottom half of the ninth against Adam Ottavino. That would set the stage for Culberson in the next frame.
Culberson, a former Rockie, came into the afternoon with a .591 OPS and zero home runs in 53 plate appearances. He finished the afternoon 3-for-5 with the homer.
It’s the fourth consecutive season in which the Dodgers have won the NL West. The Cubs have clinched the best record, which means they’ll play the winner of the Wild Card game. The Dodgers will play the Nationals in the NLDS. The Nationals have a 1.5-game lead over the Dodgers for home-field advantage, so both teams are still playing for something of importance in the regular season’s final week.